St. John’s, Newfoundland may have become familiar surroundings for Toronto this season, but this was a much changed Marlies team visiting the East coast for the last time this season.

Brendan Leipsic and Jeremy Morin, last minute call-ups to the Leafs, joined Mark Arcobello among the notable absentees.

There also were two debut appearances from Tobias Lindberg and T.J Foster, with Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert traded away to Binghamton.

Foster was joined on a makeshift fourth line by Rylan Schwartz, signed on his second PTO of the season, and defenseman David Kolomatis, as Toronto were down to the bare bones in manpower.

It was encouraging, then, that it was Toronto who were on top in the early going despite recent poor performances and slow beginnings to games. Plenty of puck possession resulted in the Marlies opening the scoring with three minutes on the clock.

Kasperi Kapanen switched the play from left to right to find Andrew Campbell. Toronto’s captain made a nice move around his man before firing a trademark rocket on net. Zach Fucale made the initial save but could do nothing to deny Campbell from scoring on his own rebound.

The Marlies‘ superiority earned them three straight powerplay chances, including a short two-man advantage, but they were unable to extend the lead.

With eight minutes to play, Rylan Schwartz escaped on a partial breakaway. Fucale turned aside his short with a defenseman snapping at the Toronto’s forwards heels making sure he couldn’t muster a second effort.

The home team’s best spell saw them draw a penalty, but a brave piece of shot-blocking from Campbell set the tone for Toronto. At the tail end of the penalty kill, William Nylander came close to setting up a gilt-edge chance but the puck refused to settle down for those joining him on the rush.

The Marlies held a 1-0 after 20 minutes and a 9-7 advantage on the shot clock.

The IceCaps responded by edging the middle frame and almost tied the game 50 seconds in. Charles Hudon escaped the Marlies defense, but Antoine Bibeau was on hand to deny the five-hole attempt.

Connor Brown’s hard work in the offensive zone earned his team their fourth powerplay.

Despite Bibeau having to come up with another fine save shorthanded, it proved Toronto’s best chance to score with the man advantage. A booming shot from Nikita Soshnikov took a wicked deflection, floating just wide and agonizingly out of the reach of debutant Tobias Lindberg.

Justin Holl loves to shoot the puck; after showing speed down the right, he had nothing much in the way of support and almost beat Fucale with a stinging effort that just about lodged between the netminder’s equipment. Connor Brown was the next to be turned aside by Fucale with an attempt from down low.

Bud Holloway proved a threat every time he hit the ice and is clearly the IceCaps’ best player on this current roster. He got the better of Viktor Loov before sending an excellent cross-ice pass to Nikita Scherbak, who must have watched in disbelief as Bibeau dived to his right to turn his effort away to safety.

The tying goal wasn’t long in coming for St. John’s, and it’s one Sheldon Keefe would not have been happy about. Bud Holloway swept his way past two Toronto players before heading directly to the net from the right side. Bibeau did well to stop Holloway’s backhand attempt, but Max Friberg was on hand to bang home the juicy rebound.

To the Marlies credit, they responded in the right manner by creating some chances during the remainder of the second period. Matt Frattin, now on loan from Ottawa, beat his man on the outside before watching his wicked wrist shot well saved by Fucale. Brett Findlay and Loov also saw some fine efforts on net receive similar treatment as the teams were tied at one after 40 minutes.

While not perfect by any means, Toronto had been better in the opening two periods than in recent games. The third period proved their best of the game as they often pinned the IceCaps in their own zone but found no reward for their efforts.

St. John’s were forced to ice the puck twice inside the opening two and half minutes before Toronto drew their fifth powerplay of the game. It was earned by the Marlies top line, but not one shot was fired as they let the home team off the hook.

If Holloway was St. John’s best player, Fucale was a close second as he denied Toronto once more at the seven minute mark. Nikita Soshnikov had scored four times against the IceCaps before this game, but in on a breakaway Fucale failed to bite on his move and gloved his low backhand attempt.

Soshnikov’s line alongside Gauthier and Hyman monopolized the home team on the next shift, but again the Marlies couldn’t turn that into a go-ahead goal.

As the game approached the midway mark of the third period, Findlay was inches away from connecting with a Connor Brown feed as that line gave the home team plenty to deal with.

Bibeau was almost a passenger as St. John’s were struggling to gain control of the puck for any period of time.

A big save from Toronto’s goaltender after a turnover almost became even more crucial seconds later. Zach Hyman capitalized on the IceCaps’ failure to clear their zone and corraled the loose puck. Immediately spinning back towards net, his shot from the right circle rang off the post with Fucale beaten.

Hudon, always a threat when on his game, tested a fully extended Bibeau, who did well to make the save and ensure no second effort out in front for IceCaps forwards driving the net.

The defining moment of the game came when Nylander took a high-sticking penalty behind the St. John’s net.

A minute into the powerplay, Michael McCarron won an offensive zone face-off and Holloway wasted no time in firing a shot on Bibeau. Toronto’s goaltender made the initial save but the rebound bounced out front, where Hudon beat three Marlies to the loose puck and scored what proved to be the game winner.

The closest Toronto came to tying up the game was through Nylander. His retribution for taking the costly penalty fell just short as his shot rang off the crossbar.

With Bibeau pulled, T.J Brennan coughed up the puck when crossing Toronto’s blue line, allowing Holloway to score the easiest goal this season and seal his fine performance with a third point.

Scoreline aside, this was a far better performance from the Toronto Marlies than what we’ve seen of late.

Post Game Notes

Andrew Campbell scored his ninth goal of the season, breaking a fourteen-game barren spell. He’s just three points shy of his best points return in a single season.

Tobias Lindberg did not have a spectacular debut on a line with Nylander and Kapanen.
Hard to be critical in the circumstances, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a line change or two.

T.J Foster was the other debutant and fared well on his odd-looking line with Schwartz and Kolomatis. They weren’t a liability, besides being caught against St. John’s top line on one occasion, and often made sure they were playing in the IceCaps zone.

– Toronto outshot their opponents 33-22, allowing just six shots against in the third period.

– Special teams were the difference in the end as Toronto’s struggles against the IceCaps continued in that department. St. John’s were one for two with the man advantage while Toronto let five opportunities slip through their grasp.

– The two teams go back at it Sunday afternoon with a 2:30 p.m. ET puck drop.

Game Highlights

Marlies Player Stats — St. John’s 3 vs. Toronto 1

Campbell, AndrewD10140
Brennan, T.J.D00-132
Percy, StuartD00-100
Hyman, ZachRW00-140
Foster, T.J.RW00030
Schwartz, RylanC00020
Lindberg, TobiasRW00000
Gauthier, FrederikC00010
Kolomatis, DavidD00000
Brown, ConnorRW00-110
Findlay, BrettLW00020
Frattin, MattRW00020
Holl, JustinD00020
Kapanen, KasperiRW01-120
Loov, ViktorD00-130
Valiev, RinatD00100
Nylander, WilliamC00-102
Soshnikov, NikitaLW00-140